The Old-Creation “I” Phase
I am doing a series on posts on the “I” Cycle, a theory about spiritual perception that was developed by Clyde Pilkington, who founded the ministry StudyShelf. I have recently come to believe that the “I” Cycle is an extremely powerful model for understanding the spiritual experiences of ourselves and those around us. I also believe it sheds new light on Scripture and reveals why the Biblical authors said some of the things they did.
In this post, I want to look at the starting point of the cycle, the old-creation “I” phase. Mr. Pilkington says,
“Man starts his journey with the center of his world being himself. And as we move along, we begin to think that not only does the world revolve around us, but seemingly we sit on the throne of our own life . . . God is scarcely in our thoughts at all. If He is there, there is an attempt to keep Him at bay as we get older, because He’s confusing to us – He interferes with what we want to do. His thoughts bother us and trouble us (1:10 – 2:00).”
It is sometimes perplexing how people, who seem to be nice, decent individuals, can suddenly act hateful or engage in very immoral behaviors. But I think what’s going on with these people is that they feel entitled to have their desires met.
Many of these people do not want to be hateful all the time; their priority is not to hurt others. They basically want to be nice people. But at the same time, they have urges and raging emotions, and they feel that it is their right to act upon these impulses. Seeing themselves as the center of the universe (whether consciously or subconsciously), their physical and emotional sensations are bigger than anything else in the world. Thus, when they are feeling something really intense inside, reasoning goes out the window.
You can try to tell people that some minor thing which ticked them off is not worth exploding over. You can try to point to devastating circumstances facing others in the world to put things in perspective. But suppose a person has a vision problem that makes everything in front of him look really big. You can try to tell him that the fly buzzing in front of him is small compared to Mount Everest, but he’s not focused on the size of Mount Everest at all. What he’s focused on is that fly in front of him which looks as big as a truck!
Some people in this phase are religious. But they are probably not focused on relationship with God. Rather, they probably associate religion with decent people and social order, and they want to be basically nice people after all. They may go to church because, that’s what they think good people do. Some of these folks may even become preachers, given that they see value in Christianity and want to promote it as a career, feeling that it would have benefit not only to others but to themselves as well.
However, they still see themselves as the center of the universe (although it’s probably somewhat subconscious at this phase). Why is it that we often hear about famous preachers who get caught in various scandals? Well, my view is that, it’s because many of those preachers still felt like it was their right to act upon their impulses; thus, they probably felt justified in living a double life. They preached against those behaviors because they thought that is what good preachers do, and they wanted to be good preachers. They probably perceived value in preaching against those sins, even though, in their personal lives, it was their right to act upon their impulses, which seem bigger and more important than anything else.
In the next post of this series, we will look at the phase “I and God,” where people come to realize that they truly need God’s help.
Here is the link to Clyde Pilkington’s video on the “I” Cycle: